Yeah -- very interesting, indeed. When most huge games have budgets of $10 million or more, our budgets here are more modest. All told, I think Tidalis is costing Arcen about $160k in man hours or so -- but because we use royalty agreements with staff, where many of them choose to share in the profits rather than getting paid up front, Arcen's out of pocket costs for a game like Tidalis is really only more like $30k at most.
Tidalis is inexpensive compared to many of the games we might do, but even the most ambitious of those would probably cost around $800k in man hours at most, and those would be contingent upon our having built up an audience large enough to actually support that sort of expenditure, not on our raising prices. Unless something drastically changes, right now $20 is about the high point for our games, and Tidalis will be $10, and Alden Ridge and AVWW are expected to be in the $10-$15 range unless something changes.
AI War was able to be successful simply because I was willing to put in 1.5 years of free labor on it, honestly. However, given that this sort of game is also an intense personal interest of mine, and a hobby, this was an acceptable way for me to bootstrap the company. I have made many games without ever having tried to sell them, and AI War could have ended up like that. In the end, though, with regional retail deals, and the ongoing sales driven by expansions and our DLC, etc, there's a chance that I might eventually wind up recouping those hourly costs by the end of the financial life of AI War. We shall see. As it stands, it's created a situation where Pablo and I are actually able to work fulltime on future projects such as Tidalis, and that's quite enough success for me at the moment.
It's a really different sort of model, to be sure, but (knock on wood) it seems financially viable for Arcen and staff. We'll see how things continue for us as time goes on, but I think that the important note is that our company was founded on an entirely different model from the bigger companies. We couldn't easily switch to work in the fashion that they do, and I certainly don't think you could retrofit a company like them to work like we do. So that's kind of interesting, I guess.
Thanks for the article post! Good one.